It’s a testament to the time in which we live to be able to walk through the brilliant halls of a white-walled, glass ceilinged exhibition hall, quietly perusing couture from one of the masters of modern fashion, Valentino Garavani, all in front of a computer screen.
This Monday saw the launch of the esteemed designer’s archives in a virtual museum, unlike any other I’ve seen: a beautifully designed, 10,000 square meter space open 24/7, allowing you to freely roam and consume a variety of fashion at your own pace.
Upon entering the museum and seeing a beautifully cut scarlet coat from his A/W 1965/66 Haute Couture collection suspended in a red glass cube, it’s painfully aware that you’re in for a pleasurable experience, if you stay for two seconds or three hours like me (I should bill Valentino for the hours of work I lost to examining red dresses.)
The museum is divided up into several halls, from “Muses & Friends” to “The Other Half.” In the “Themes & Variations” gallery one can spend hours looking at numerous gowns: floral, pleated, satin and crepe masterpieces standing on an immense white staircase reminiscent of old MGM movie musical sets. “The Library” is an amazing resource, documenting over 5,000 images of dresses as well as corresponding sketches, runway shots and editorials.
The museum’s creation is credited to Valentino’s longtime colleague Giancarlo Giammetti, who worked with the designer for two years to bring a lifetime’s worth of work to your fingertips.
Of course, something is lost in translation. It’s difficult not to feel you’re missing out on seeing the drape of the fabric, the loose threads at the hem, the glow of satin against the light and every other physical delight one can normally experience when viewing fashion. Still, it’s an amazing archive and an amazing way to experience an artist’s oeuvre.